The problem with our laws

By Ruth Limkin

The widening scandal from News of the World’s alleged phone hacking activities continues to claim victims.

Today’s sad news of the death of whistleblower Sean Hoare, being described as unexplained but not suspicious, is a window into unhealthy lives and what seems to have been an unhealthy culture. Hoare has been struggling with drug and alcohol addiction for some time, and his health was reported to have been deteriorating.

The hacking scandal had been used by the Greens to call for an inquiry into Australian media – a call that was supported last week by former Prime Minister Keating.

Keating was reported as saying that ‘the Australian Law Reform Commission’s recommendation to introduce laws to protect individual privacy should be adopted by the government.

“In other words, you don’t have a right of appeal to some body, you have a right to action, you have a right to the law. In the end, the only regulator of this bad behaviour is the law,” Mr Keating told ABC’s Lateline, saying media self-regulation was “a joke”.

…the only regulator of this bad behaviour is the law…

Unfortunately, this is untrue. There is a problem with our laws that we are all too often unwilling to discuss.

Laws are an essential way of society defining what is, and is not, acceptable behaviour, but they do not, and cannot, regulate bad behaviour. If they did, our jails would be empty.

It is not for a lack of laws that bad behaviour occurs.

It is for a lack of moral restraint.

When individuals either fail to recognise the need to exercise moral restraint, or do not have the ability to do so, bad behaviour ensues.

The problem with News of the World, and phone hacking, and drug addiction and every behavioural aberration is not so much because our laws are broken but because our conscience is.

Sadly, such a dilemma is not exactly news to the world.